A few of you requested a step by step tutorial for reupholstering. I know I’m not the best person to teach you how to reupholster things. My little chair is fraught with imperfections. However, because I went at this with such little experience, I am, perhaps, the best person to share the reupholstering process and all the things I learned along the way.
- This is where we begin. With an ugly chair, purchased for $14.99 at Value Village on a fine fall day.
- Rip it apart. This sounds very haphazard, but in reality, it’s important to be a little careful with this process. Take off bits of the fabric in order, one layer at a time. Your digital camera is crucial for this step. Take a photo with every piece of fabric you remove making note of intricate ways it is attached, where it is stapled, and what’s underneath.
I learned a lot in this step. As each layer peeled off, I came across a few surprises, wood where I didn’t expect it to be, construction that, as I went deeper and deeper, seemed more simple, more manageable. Taking apart the chair made me realize that, yes, I could put this back together!
Note: the batting inside my chair was in pretty good shape and I decided not to replace it. This may be an extra step for you if you do need to replace it.
- Figure out how many yards you need to finish your chair. My method was not an exact science. I lay all the bits of carefully removed fabric on our back patio, each piece side by side in a line. Then, I grabbed the measuring tape, wrote down the number and ordered away. I ordered 5 yards for this chair, which I anticipated to be about 1.5 yards more than I need. Give yourself some leeway. Worst case scenario, you end up with way to much and make three matching pillows from the extra.
- My fabric arrived two days later. I waited a couple months.
- Finally. I started to cut! This is both the hardest and the easiest part of the process. Cut your pieces piece at a time, starting with the inner-most layer. Don’t work ahead. Cut one piece, attach it, cut the next, etc. Why? If you end up messing up on one of your first pieces, cut another and get it on your chair. You don’t want to have all the big later pieces cut out and realize you can’t attach the pieces that go under it because you messed up and you don’t have enough fabric. That’s a really good way to lose momentum.
Use the old pieces as a template. Lay it out on the fabric, doing your best to match up fabric grain directions. This can be tough, because your new piece is likely to be stretched and warped. Just do your best. I found my upholstery fabric to be incredibly forgiving.
Your old piece will already have a ‘seam’ (staple!) allowance, but feel free to give yourself a little extra space. I discovered that going bigger is far better than smaller. You can always cut extra fabric off. You can’t add fabric if your piece is too small. I learned this the hard way with the back piece. I fought with trying to stretch a too small piece of fabric over the back of the chair forever before I gave up, stitch-ripped the middle panel out and created a new one. This is what your extra yard and a half is for!
Sew up some seams if you need to (I had four to sew in order to create the back and front paneled cover.)
- Staple and stretch, staple and stretch! If you’re upholstering a chair that’s anything like this one, a lot of the stapling is hidden underneath, out of the way. Follow the construction of the chair in reverse order! You’ll know what I mean once you get started on a project of your own. If you do that, you’ll understand where to staple, how to fold, when to tuck, how tight to pull, etc. etc.
- If you’re like me, you’ll end up with some ghastly seams and a trim of staples all the way along the back of your chair.
I have some ideas about how to not end up with this for the next chair, but, for this one, I went with covering it with trim. The original chair had double piping, in the middle of which the staple was hidden. I still have no idea how the original upholsterer accomplished that. (Ah… right. It was likely a machine!) Instead, I simply glued some store-bought trim over the seam, covering seam and staples completely.
I know. Glued. I’m sure it’s not the ‘right’ way to do it but… like I said… learning experience!
- Sew up the cushion! This is your opportunity to use lots and lots of pins. And probably your stitch ripper. At least twice. For simplicity sake, you may want to sew a zipper into the middle of the back part of the cushion’s band. It will be a lot easier to get the cushion in (and out, when you want to wash the cover!).
Questions? Ask away! I will do my best to answer them!